Skip to Main Content

Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Research Summary

Prenatal stress has been associated with multiple mental health problems in children and adults. Prenatal stress has been linked to childhood cognitive, physiological, and emotional problems and has been correlated with psychiatric disorders including ADHD, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and a greater severity of symptoms in Tourette syndrome. Prenatal stress clearly has neurophysiological effects, but it is not clear what components of development are most vulnerable. The relationship of prenatal stress with behavioral disorders may be particularly mediated by changes to inhibitory (GABAergic) neurons. Animal models have demonstrated that changes occur in offspring that are exposed to prenatal stress in regions of the brain in which GABAergic systems are important regulators. In the developing brain, GABAergic system disruptions may result in changes to other neural systems that may underlie other emotional and cognitive functioning—GABA plays a significant role in circuitry formation during critical periods. The mechanisms by which these changes in the brain occur are not understood. My lab is examining developmental changes in the brain as a result of prenatal stress in order to better understand the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders and to develop better prevention and treatments.

Extensive Research Description

Prenatal stress and forebrain development

Growth factors and prenatal stress

Role of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 in forebrain functioning


Research Interests

Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms; Child Psychiatry; Neurobiology

Public Health Interests

Child/Adolescent Health

Selected Publications